Book Review – The Deadly Royal Recipe by Ranjit Lal
- One lonely princess
- Three school friends
- One little brother
- One villainous raja
- One even more villainous son
- One top-secret Recipe Master book
Blend the lonely princess thoroughly with the friends, brother, raja and son. Mix it with the Master book. Stir in lots of exotic food. Cook it all to perfection with a fast paced plot. Garnish with action, adventure, car-chases and elephant rides. This wacky, racy adventure will have you burping with satisfaction.
Aah! Imagine the spicy Indian chaats, the tangy Italian pastas and the finest Danish chocolate, to top it all, served in one plate. Mouth watering, no? Well, at first glance the book seems to be, too.
There’s the Kamargarh raja and the whole dynasty who are obsessed with extravagant food. The recipes to which are a secret that people are ready to pay any price for, even shed some blood! Then there is princess Zafira, a feisty young gal, who apart from being filthy rich, has the knowledge of about almost everything. She can cook some of the most delectable dishes, drive a Rolls Royce, ride an elephant, make spears out of bamboos to fish and etc etc. Oh and did I mention she is school going kid? I am so jealous!
Well anyways, she makes a few friends, Lana who can dream, think and talk of nothing other than food, Ragini, Yogita and her little brother Yogesh(who is sadly named Barfi, poor him!). They all go together on a camping trip and the poor kids get trapped in a royal feud over the Master book. Rest of the story is about how they manage to save the family secret, the Kamargarh honor and most of all, their lives!
The book is quite amusing, funny here and there but I would rank it just as average. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to pass time for young readers (I would say, up to 11 years).
254 Pages .
Paperback edition: Dec 2012
Book Review – Jobless, Clueless, Reckless by Revathi Suresh
Jobless, Clueless, Reckless – These are the very three words that seem like the answer to why the author wrote the book. And in all honesty, I am glad she did. There are no twisty plots, complicated characters or beyond reality situations. It’s just simple and easy. It’s the life of a teenage girl, Kavya laid bare in our hands. I know I am not making it sound all exciting but it is.
To those who are way past their teen years, remember the rash decisions, the infinite crushes, the big bad boy who seemed to be every girl’s dream boyfriend, mom’s totally un-cool lectures and dad’s protective nature that always seemed to be going a bit over board? That’s what teenage is all about and so is the book. I love how Revathi Suresh has compiled it up in 173 pages.
Kavya has no idea why her life turned out to be this way. Her mom has forgotten that she actually has children, her brother…well he’s just a confused eleven year old and her friends…umm she’s not sure she has that many. Her life is far from normal and to add to it is Kiran. No, not a girl but the handsome blue eyed guy who everyone has a crush on. As hard as she tries to live with it all, there’s something or the other that always gets in the way. She is living without television, laptop, mobiles and Facebook! And imagine we are in the 21st century! She never got a chance to go to school and was home-schooled at a farm. Her friends find her nothing but weird and eventually she starts to feel the same way. She is caught up in a web of friendships that she’s not even sure are true, cheating boyfriend, dumb girls, and not-so-decent guy who she can’t help but like.
Adolescence is like that one crazy night after having too much drink. Wild, careless, jumbled but above all, FUN! And so is this book. (Yeah, I am fifteen and no, I don’t drink. So obviously I wouldn’t know. I saw it in the movies. Okaaayyy!) I loved it and I am pretty sure you will too.
Book reviews: Moin and the Monster & Moin the Monster Songster
Light and jovial are two words that best describe these two books by Anushka Ravishankar. It’s a delightful read for those of age, 9 to 11 years. The book begins with quite a comical introduction when the monster first visits Moin, in the middle of the night. Due to some absurd rule he can only appear once Moin has drawn him on a piece of paper. For an expectant monster who longs to be drawn into fearsome and deadly being, the actual output is quite a disappointment. He turns out to be a pink weird looking creature, with auto-rickshaw horns (They were intended to be terrifying devil horns) and bamboo legs. Well the real trouble begins when the monster shows his eating habits, which are basically to hog up anything which it likes in in-numerous quantities and lands Moin in unavoidable situations.
One thing that the monster loves to do is sing which forms the crux of the story as it always lands Moin in troubles and things get out of hand. Moin the Monster Songster is one twisty ride through the hassles that the monster’s scratchy singing causes. His parents are used to hearing only the raucous voice of the monster which they believe to be Moin’s. So they are quite taken aback his music teacher organizes a concert for him to star in. Well all goes downhill and lands him in even more trouble. He gets tired of baby-sitting; it seems like that only because he has put up with the monster’s blaring voice and tantrums. His friends Tony, who’s quite obsessed with the Monster’s behavior and Monster Rules, he keeps popping up every time, and Parvati, help him come up with ideas for getting rid of the monster. Will they ever get rid of it? Find out about it and have a great time laughing through it all as you read these books.
Titles: Moin the Monster, Moin the Monster Songster
Author: Anushka Ravishankar
ISBN: 978-93-81626-90-0 & 978-93-81626-91-7
Oops The Mighty Gurgle by RamG Vallath
Oops…The Mighty Gurgle. As absurd as the name may sound the book sure is funny, best suited for kids of 10 to 12 years. I feel as if even RamG Vallath would have said, “Oops! I just wrote it.” Pardon my silly humor I guess the book just got to me.
The plot of the story is totally out of the world, literally! Gurgles are an extra-terrestrial species evolved from the genetically modified pumpkins on Earth. As you would have figured out by now Oops is the name of a gurgle and the protagonist of the story. These pumpkins or gurgles left the planet in fear being squeezed into pumpkin juice and now live on Unearth. They are well beyond our time…so far in the future that other species of that time refer to humans as “pre-primitive”. Imagine!! Well just like them there are many other species each living on their own planets and inter-space travel is just another casual matter.
The antagonists are the groinks. They are green colored highly evolved pigs. You must be wondering why green. Before you start racking your brains of any green colored pig you might have read of, remember that pigs often represent greed and envy. The author says that the groinks were so jealous of other species that they turned green with envy. Well anyways, this nature of theirs turns out be a threat for us on Earth as they are set on taking over planets and making them one of their own.
The Intergalactic Governance Council is unable to reach a sound decision and thus, Oops decides to go and save Earth all alone and prove himself. On his mission he is aided by two pre-primitives i.e. humans of our era, Chuck and Kia. Oh! And even Floppy, a dog and another pre-primitive. With the Cerebums of planet Holibutt, who just worship their butts as their brains are in their bottoms and are as addicted to Assbook as we are to Facebook (Yeah guys, in the coming million years ‘having brains in his bottoms’ won’t be an insult, in-fact another species.), the ‘single and ready to mingle’ emperor of penguins who sends out matrimonial ads to outer space through the aurora borealis and other totally bizarre species that come along the journey are sure to make you laugh out loud.
Book review: Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar
“Mullah Omar sat down for what would be the last meal of his life…” and thus begins Mainak Dhar’s Zombiestan. What else would you expect when yellow-skinned, ghoul looking zombies with puss and blood running down their faces stare out at you from the book cover. Being a fan of romantic and mystery genres only, I was a bit reluctant to read a book of vengeful zombies and helpless humans. But for the sake of writing this review I started reading it. Much to my surprise I was roped in from the first chapter itself, where Dhar goes on describe the killing of Taliban leaders. Yes! Osama is dead and the US Navy Seals have yet again attacked the terrorists. That is how it all begins and the Zombiestan takes birth.
People overnight have turned into zombies, or the ‘biters’ as they are being called, who seem to know only one thing – to kill humans and make them one of their own. Roads are stranded, people have fled from homes and crammed into small shops, finding every possible way of surviving. What begin as aimless killers who slaughter humans like barbarians, evolve into well-coordinated Taliban terrorists who have learned to plan, read and write. This is when fate throws together five complete strangers to embark on a journey that calls for much more than just the “spirit of adventure”. Mayukh, a 17 year old boy, Swati and her 3-year-old brother, Abhi, Hima, an old history professor but with the guts of a soldier and David Bremsak, an US Navy Seal and thus, the only individual amongst them who is likely to stand a possibility of surviving. When they discover that Abhi might be the only chance of theirs, and for that matter the world’s survival, they go on board a journey to Ladakh with a hope of finding help there. They face challenges where they have put aside their fears and weaknesses and fight for each other. They get into deadly wars with the biters who are now after Abhi and even the human survivors who feel handing over Abhi to them would make peace. Can this odd group of survivors, an US commando, a boy who is shaken from the loss of his family, an old professor and novelist, a young girl and a three-year old make it?
As the saga unfolds, somewhere the readers form a connection with the characters and as their heart races when attacked by biters, so does yours and when they crumble with pain on seeing another human die in front of them you also feel the helplessness. Even the naiveté and simplicity of the 3-year-old, Abhi in tough situations is sure to put smile on your faces. It brings forward the essence of the small joys in life that in normalcy we tend to overlook whether it be playing video games, having pizza every other weekend or just a kiss of goodnight from your mom. Mainak Dhar’s Zombiestan makes up for an action-packed, thrilling novel with even a bit of peripheral romance for some romanticists. It is a good read although the introductions can feel quite long but it surely is gripping.
A Spectacle to Behold
Rain is one subject that dominates countless articles and essays. Hundreds of poets, lyricists and shaiyars can’t get enough of it. They write away pages, fascinated by the aura of rain. And why wouldn’t they. No one can escape the utter bliss one feels hearing the sound of falling droplets, the pitter patter against the glass windows or even the heavenly smell of damp soil and the lush greenery it leaves behind, recreating the beauty of nature.
The one thing I love about the rain is its freewill and independence. It comes and goes as it pleases. Like a king it sits on a throne deciding the fate of its petty subjects, making its own rules and time tables. Nobody can dare demand its arrival but can merely plea for a light shower. It indulges in its self-created significance as eager farmers and people wait its arrival hungrily. Like a Bollywood star it can drive its fans crazy, agonize them just to catch a glimpse of it. But when it comes, it bewitches the famished as the water pours over the dried up lakes and wells.
The rain spares no one with its charm. Everyone is tempted by the rain as they push open their windows with the first of falling drops. Not many can resist the urge to strip off their clothes and go dance, out in the rain. The symphony of the plummeting drops evokes the memories of the sagas, the rain unfolds. One reminisces of the day he walked hand in hand with his lover, down a lonely street, in the rain or of the chaotic dance steps he and his friends had choreographed on a day like this. Some remember the hassles of crossing the slushy ponds, rain makes and a few foodies recall the hot snacks and tea that goes with it. People dance their hearts out and the children love splashing the mud all over each other. As the water cascades down it washes the dirt off and leaves everything behind fresh and rejuvenated. It teaches us that no matter how deep you are in mud, in time, all problems will be washed away and a better future will come. This is all what rain is about. It’s about enjoying each and every moment of it while it lasts. It doesn’t fail to give an absolutely exhilarating experience every time it pours.
As much as the rain can give you happiness it can give pain as well. How many of us can boast of never being stuck in a traffic jam because of rain? I don’t think there’s even one. Its fury is such that it can induce neck-deep floods and wash away homes. It gives rise to water logging and deadly diseases like malaria, typhoid, cholera and what-not. A heavy downpour can destroy crops, so carefully looked after for months, leaving the farmers stranded in the damaged fields. Power failures and zero networks for communication add to the misery. Slippery and swampy roads with hazy vision become a cause of several accidents every year. At these times when the world is at the mercy of the rain, it’s hard to admire the falling drops. Instead they scare you.
Truly, the rain is nature’s that marvel whose spectacle, whether gracious or ghastly, no can miss!
Exhausted I sat down on the sofa with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand. I looked out of the glass window and stared at the world. I saw the pigeon’s flight towards the setting sun, Mr. and Mrs. Gupta, across the street, having yet another spat and I saw the traffic building up on the road. My thoughts changed from the world outside to the world inside. I started recollecting today’s day.
Today had been eventful, something different from the rest but not good. I was kicked out of the school band, my best friend ditched me and I was made to sit in detention. I can’t believe all this happened to me! Why me? What had I done? It wasn’t even my fault.
How could Rohan throw me out of the band? He, who is always giving me advices to improve my singing, what does he think of himself?
As usual, we gathered in Deepa ma’am’s room in the morning to rehearse our songs. I was in no mood to sing and everyone could see that, everyone except Rohan. He constantly kept telling me work on the notes, or to sing higher. I left the room furiously tired of all his ordering. He maybe our leader but he couldn’t force me to sing. As I ran down the hallway I heard him saying, “There’s no need for you to come back.”
I got into the class just as my class teacher got inside. Rohan was already seated and as usual Divya, my best friend was seated right next to him. She frowned at me and changed her seat when I came to sit next to her. I was taken aback…what had I done? Why was she upset with me? I went up to her and demanded an answer. She looked at me and said, “Why do you always have to have things the way you want? Why can’t you ever do anything for others?” I was enraged. Hot tears streamed down my face and I ran to the washroom. How could she say things like that? I knew why. It was because of Rohan. She would always do as Rohan said. I went back in the class and gave her a tight slap across her face. She screamed at me and told me to never talk to her again. I heard my English teacher shouting my name, “Come right here! What was the need for you to slap Divya like that?” I bent down my head. I knew what was coming next. “You will serve detention in the next period in the headmistress’s room. That will teach you not to misbehave in my class.” I groaned and made my way to her room. This all wasn’t even my fault.
Now sitting in the sofa I was trying to figure out the problems Rohan had with me. After all, it was entirely his fault. If he had been a little considerate then none of this would have happened. Why did Divya always have to agree with Rohan? She should use some of her own mind. Was it really their fault? If not, then who?
I was tired. I wanted to get away from it all and just escape somewhere…a place where all this won’t even matter. I needed a break. Casually, I turned towards the mirror and saw my reflection. I stared into my own eyes. Shock struck me. I shuddered in horror as the realization hit me. It was me. It was my fault. I finally grasped that all the problems I was facing was not because of Rohan or even Divya it was because I had been a jerk. I was too caught up in my whole world that I didn’t think about anyone else. Divya had been right I always wanted things my way. I always wanted to be the center of attraction.
Today when I looked in the mirror it was not my reflection that had scared me. It was the realization. In my eyes I had seen some guilt and pain which brought me to reality. Sometimes it is because of our own deeds that we land up in a heap of confusions and troubles. And at these ‘sometimes’, ask yourself who is at fault and you will know that it’s you.
The next morning I went to school knowing what I had to do. I went up to Divya and apologized. I narrated her all the feelings I had last night and she understood. She forgave me. I hugged her tightly and promised her that this would never repeat itself. I went to class and our lessons began.
I still had one more thing to do. I found Rohan strumming his guitar to our favorite tune in the music room. As soon as he saw me, he stopped. I sat down next to him. I opened my mouth but no words came out. I didn’t know how to apologize to him. Before I could figure out what to say he said, “Its ok. I understand.” I looked at him surprised. With a little smile he added, “Be here tomorrow morning. We have lots to rehearse. Especially those high notes you keep messing up,” and started laughing. I couldn’t help smiling back.
A life of choices
“Our choices make us who we are.” We hear this many times, sometimes from our elders when while sipping a cup of tea they tell us their experiences, or from a friend who found out that pursuing a career in IIT was not her best decision or maybe even from the 5 year old kid next door who repents not choosing the chocolate ice cream instead of the chocolate cake his mouth is covered with. So what do we do then? We lend a supporting hand and say how sorry we feel for them. But we never take out the time to actually sit and realize its significance in our own life. We choose not to think about our decisions until we ourselves face the problem.
The choices we make define us as a person. The people are not good or bad it’s the choices they make which are good or bad. A police man is well respected in the society but if he chooses to accept bribes from culprits he becomes a man that the society looks down upon in disgust.
Rohit hadn’t studied for his biology exam today. He wasn’t worried. “I have my ways,” he thought slyly. He had convinced the class topper, Preeti to let him cheat off from her paper. In return he wouldn’t tell her parents that Preeti wasn’t taking extra classes in the evenings instead she went to football practice. Her parents never liked her participating in “things meant for boys”. Preeti was nervous. She had never cheated before. She could choose not to help Rohit but then her parents would know and never allow her to go to the Zonal matches.
The bell rang and everyone settled down in their seats. There was a hushed excitement as the teacher passed out the question papers. Sweat dripped down Preeti’s brow. She was tense. Behind her, she heard Rohit coughing to get her attention. She felt that all eyes in the room were on her only. She saw the teacher standing over her. Oh God…busted…! What will she say now? The teacher smiled and said, “Relax Preeti, why are you getting so tensed? You are such a good student.” Preeti managed a small smile as a reply. The cough was heard once again. She turned around and stared at Rohit’s raised fingers. The second question, “Describe the functions of the pseudopodia.”
Preeti was facing a torment of emotions by now. This was wrong, she shouldn’t do it. And she didn’t…she chose not to go the wrong way. Her parents would understand. She will make them understand. Rohit could do whatever he wanted and for now, he could figure out the role of the pseudopodia.
Kabir was running blindly. He had no idea where he was. He pushed past the crowd. He just knew that he had to run away, away from the world he knew too well. A place where nobody understood him. He wiped away the tears forming in his eyes. He was frustrated, angry and exhausted. Today, he realized how cruel the world was, where only those with big surnames could get their way. He had studied so hard for his dream job and when the time came no company would employ him. All his friends, the sons of rich dads had a job but no not him. His degree in MBA wasn’t required by anyone.
He was short of breath and had to stop. The crowd on the roads was getting thinner and the rikhshawalas and chaatwalas were calling it a day and packing up. He had nowhere to go but he was certainly not going to turn back. He saw the beggars lining up on the footpath and laying down on the torn rags. He went up to them and was given some space where he could curl up.
The next day when he woke up, he saw a few men staring at him. He gave them a disgusted look and told them to go away. One of them lifted him by the collar and started asking questions about his whereabouts. Kabir was scared and timidly answered all the questions. The gang started laughing. They laughed at his problems. One of them took something out of his pocket and gave it to him, “Take some of this. You will feel on top of the world.” And he did.
Kabir was now an addict to drugs and alcohol. He rarely thought of his family. Instead of going back to improve his life he had chosen to take up gambling. He worked in a local bar with his new gangster friends and occasionally took up small assignment such as stealing wallets at the railway station. Little did he know that day by day the drugs were taking his life. Each waft of that dreadful white powder brought him closer to death. Until finally the day came.
He had quietly taken off the gold watch and the leather purse hanging from the back pocket of the man with big moustache waiting for his train. The man was running behind him. But Kabir was fast, he had years of practice. He knew he would get away.
But death was faster. He was running on the tracks now and the man was right behind him. He felt a sickening pain in his stomach and then his head. Slowly, his whole body was overtaken by this pain. He fell down on the tracks. He saw his parents dancing along him on his birthday; he could hear his little sister cheering for him at the graduation ceremony and the laugh of his baby brother when he took his first step. He was at peace and then all went black.
An ambulance rushed to the hospital only to announce the patient dead on arrival due to excessive nicotine in his liver. The family was informed who still curse their son’s choice to go the wrong way. They had searched everywhere for him and didn’t expect to ultimately find him dead.
Preeti’s choice had led her to a better life in which she would have no regrets but all the wrong choices of Kabir had torn his family apart and led eventually to his death. This shows that the choices we make along the journey of life leads to the destination we end up in. So, choose wisely my friends there is only one life we have got.
“It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J.K. Rowling
She sang very beautifully and she was so exquisite,
She had everyone’s attention although she didn’t realize it,
She missed no note and her melodious voice filled my ears,
Her song was so mesmerizing and sad that my eyes welled up with tears.
I hoped her song would never come to an end and I could listen to her forever,
Her voice soothed my senses and the notes flowed like a river,
I wondered how she was so perfect and impeccable,
When she stopped, the look of astonishment on her small face was unforgettable.
She bowed down and closed her eyes to take in the moment,
I joined the applause and at its ending, I could only lament,
I wish I could tell her how much her words had touched me; her words had so much power,
Her song had ended and I moved on but carried her song in my heart forever.
September 4th, 2008
The sky was clear and the sun was shining down. But the bad news was that a hurricane was on the move from the Cape Verde islands and was to hit Texas in just a week. The news channels were flooded with the news of when it would reach our house and whether we needed to evacuate. They were calling it the Hurricane Ike. Was I scared? I asked myself. It had been a year now, living in this house and the thought of it getting destroyed by a gust of wind and thunderstorm seemed unimaginable. The news had warned us about how nasty the situation could get and how we could make through it. But that didn’t help much except it just made me frightened.
September 10th, 2008
We are prepared. Dad has stocked up food in the house and we have even bought a DVD player to avoid the boredom of confinement inside the house. The swimming pool has been drained out so no more swimming for some time. The society has set up cooking utensils in the laundry room to be used during the power failures and we have filled our bathtubs with water to deal with water shortage. A strange silence has settled in the air as people begun putting boards at their windows and piling up their possessions.
September 12th, 2008
I have a feeling that something is wrong today. I can almost sense the oncoming blow. The sky is of an eerie grey color. The dark clouds shroud the sky and there is no sun. Even though Houston isn’t going to suffer the most damage as the hurricane will hit nearby in Galveston still everyone is afraid… afraid of the future… afraid of what might happen next. And the question hangs whether they will live tomorrow. But I am not thinking of all that. Tonight we will not sleep in our room as it has large glass windows instead we will sleep in the living room. There is no power or water from now on until the hurricane dies down.
I guess when you face a problem then only you realize the gravity of the situation. That is exactly what happened with me. Just before sleeping I was annoyed with everyone creating hype about this hurricane. What else will you expect from a 10 year old? But that night I didn’t sleep a bit. Outside the window, the rain fell hard on the ground, the clouds thundered like never before and the wind howled with a deafening noise. I heard the crash of broken glass and another noise that I couldn’t comprehend. Now I was really scared. I said a quick prayer and tried to get some sleep. The whole night the wind blew outside the window with so much force that I was almost sure that the glass would give away. I huddled closer to my sister for some warmth and comfort. I dared myself to get up and take a look out of the window. I got up slowly and with heavy steps made my way to the window. Everything was dark outside. It was almost as if ours was the only house amidst the darkness. I could see nothing. I heard the rain battering down the glass. Usually I would have admired the sound of falling raindrops and the smell of the wet sand but tonight was different. It seemed as if a hungry monster lurked outside devouring everything in its path. I stood trembling there for some time and then I hurried back to the safety of my bed.
September 13th, 2008
The hurricane had hit us at 2:10 am in the morning and was a dangerous Category 2. The wind was now dead calm and the sky was still without the sun. We went outside to witness the damage. The sight was painful. The evidence of the overnight storm surge was laid out in front of us. There was no swimming pool glistening in the sun instead it was now full of waste, broken branches and what not. Shards of broken glass were scattered around and a part of the roof was lying in the parking area. The cleaning crew had already come in and had begun picking up the debris. Now I fathomed that the incomprehensible voice I heard last night was the breaking of the roof due to which some houses were flooded. I shuddered at the thought of someone getting hurt. Luckily, our house had not suffered any damage and was still intact. My eyes followed a squirrel scampering around the waste. It looked so cute, so innocent. I wondered whether its family had survived the calamity. I looked around and saw that many people were outside and enquiring about everyone’s safe health. We walked over to the group. Everyone was unusually cheery and asked how we were and whether we had suffered any harm. It felt overwhelming. Most of us were neighbors but were talking for the first time. The group included the society’s Chinese, Turkish, Japanese, Koreans, and Spanish etc. Our society finally felt united.
Since there was no water or electricity, mom had to go to the laundry room where the society had set up a stove and other needs to cook our food. Mom came back surprisingly in high spirits. She had brought with her various different dishes. She told us that everyone in the ‘kitchen’ had shared their food to try the different tastes. The food was great. I was pleased that eventually everything had turned out to be fine, but I still felt irritated and exasperated. Mom asked if I was ok and I casually replied that I was fine. But I didn’t really feel fine. I longed for the sun to come out, I longed to watch TV, longed to get out of this house and play and most of all I was desperate for everything to be normal again.
September 18th, 2008
Dad gave the solution for my trouble. We were going to get away from the boredom and escape to San Antonio. The irony of it all was that we had not left home when the situations were worse and now when we were suffering from boredom we decide to take off. After all the days of getting up in the morning to bring tea from Starbucks, the US Chaiwala, waiting in lines in the laundry room to cook food and taking sponge baths we would finally live normally.
I was told that everything happens for good. I guess that this Hurricane Ike came as a blessing in disguise. We got to know our neighbors, make new friends and a friendly mood was created within the society. Above all, we were going to take another vacation and explore the mysterious caves of San Antonio.
- Experienced and written by Sonal Gupta, a class nine student and that makes her youngest writer on board GingerChai.